(J. Gould) To consider the attached report regarding the review of the Housing Allocation Policy.
The Community and Wellbeing Director presented a report on the Housing Allocations Policy which was due for renewal in April 2022. The report set out the proposed major changes for the Allocation Policy 2022-2027 and the next steps for the stage 2 consultation.
The review had highlighted evidence-based issues and opportunities for inclusion in the Housing Allocations Policy in the following areas.
1. Defining the Priority Bands – To attribute clear identifiable needs level to each band and review the criteria for each band.
2. Priority Date – To prioritise bids for accommodation based on the applicant’s band and then in date order that they had joined that band, rather than when they joined the Housing Register.
3. Medical Categories – To have three medical categories which included band A - emergency medical need; band B - urgent medical need and band C - moderate medical need.
4. Domestic Abuse – To incorporate the requirements of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 into the Housing Allocation Scheme.
5. Homeless Households – To award priority band B to homeless households that the Council had accepted a duty to rehouse under part 7 of the Housing Act 1996.
6. Homeless Households - To afford homeless households the opportunity to bid for suitable properties in accordance with their priority banding, on the understanding that they would be made a direct offer to enable the Council to discharge its duty if they failed to bid or secure an offer via choice based lettings within a reasonable timescale.
7. Under-occupation - To remove the penalty of suspending an under occupier from bidding if they refused 4 offers and replace with a discretionary decision to suspend an applicant who repeatedly bid for, then refuses a property where it was evident that they have no intention of moving.
8. Under-occupation - To allow under-occupiers wishing to downsize from a house to a flat where they were giving up one or more bedrooms, to be considered for a flat with a spare bedroom (i.e. a couple or single person can move from a 3-bed house to a 2-bed flat or a 1-bed flat) with or without a garden.
9. Serious Unacceptable Behaviour including Rent Arrears - To replace the 7-year rule for all unacceptable behaviour with a prescribed risk-based approach, to determining whether a history of unacceptable behaviour was serious enough to warrant exclusion from the Housing Register. Looking at patterns and severity of behaviour, cause and effect, recent history and support mechanisms that the applicant had, to prevent reoccurrence.
10. Allocation of Accommodation (rent arrears in excess of 4 weeks rent) - To replace the blanket 4-week arrears rule with a discretionary prescribed risk based approach, to determine whether an offer could be made to an applicant with rent arrears based on the cause of the arrears, and repayment plan.
11. Local Lettings Plans and Key Workers Housing - To include the use of a local lettings plans where appropriate to do so in accordance with the requirements of the Housing Act 1996.
12. Priority Transfers and Management Transfers - To replace Appendix 3 Priority Transfers with relevant sections in the main body of the Allocations Policy that define the offer policies for management transfers, temporary or permanent decants, overcrowding and welfare grounds (as well as medical grounds).
13. Pre-Transfer Property Inspections and Recharge Policy - To introduce a ‘ready to go’ inspections for tenants who were pursuing a transfer, to ensure they left the property in a suitable condition, and to have the ability to suspend applicants from bidding until they brought their property up to the required standard. Furthermore, for anyone who does leave a property in a poor condition (for example it was fine during the ‘ready to go’ inspection but damage had been done since) to be recharged for the cost of bringing the property back up to a standard that was suitable to re-let.
All of the recommendations would be submitted for stage 2 consultation to stakeholders between October and December 2021.
The Committee requested that if requested could the feedback received from other housing professionals and housing associations with regards to the Housing Allocation Policy be shared.
The Committee asked the following questions;
· What were Local Lettings Plans and Key Worker Housing? The Community and Wellbeing Service Director advised that Local Lettings Plans and Key Worker Housing allowed for balanced communities to be created within new estates or developments rather than just going from the Allocation Policy which would be a members decision rather than an officers decision. It would also allow for consideration around communities where there were problems, to ensure an effective change could occurred.
· Could the accommodation allocated to service people, such as the Police or Fire Services be considered for housing residents? The Housing Services Portfolio Holder advised that she would contact the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner regarding this query.
· Should the Allocation Policy take into account international emergencies such as the Afghanistan Refugees resettlement programme? The Community and Wellbeing Service Director advised that there were always situations where discretion was required and the Allocation Policy allowed for these circumstances to be considered out side the policy.
· How did the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 change the duty placed on the Local Authority? The Interim Housing Strategy Officer advised that although the previous policy had included Domestic Abuse, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was very prescriptive and therefore needed to be included in the new policy. She would supply a copy of the differences between the new and old policy for Members via the members briefing note.
· What was meant by Personal Housing Plans; Cascading letting arrangements and the Debt Reset Bite Scheme? The Community and Wellbeing Service Director advised that the Debt Respite Scheme Regulation 2020 was introduced following the pandemic and a further information on the scheme would be supplied in the Members Bulletin. The Interim Housing Strategy Officer advised that the Personal Housing Plans were introduced with the Homelessness Act 2017, as a requirement for people seeking rehousing to engage in an agreement with the Council to take some responsibility, ensuring that the wellbeing and welfare of the person was considered. The cascading letting arrangements allowed housing which targeted a particular priority to cascade down to a larger geographical group, if the need was not required.
· Could the information sent out to members be sent to the Co-opted member of this Committee as well. The Co-opted members details would be passed onto the relevant officer.
1. That the Committee noted outcome of the stage 1 initial consultation on the review of the Allocations Policy 2022-2027; and
2. That the Committee approved the proposed major changes to the Allocation Policy 2022-2027 which would be included in the stage 2 consultation between October 2021 and December 2021.